Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Optimistic Greece - Work and Opportunities

People & Power

Greece: The odyssey

A TV program about people who have found a new direction in Greece

People & Power can be seen at the following times GMT: Tonight(Wednesday): 2230; Thursday: 0930; Friday: 0330; Saturday: 1630; Sunday: 2230; Monday: 0930 on Channel 89

Filmmaker: Philip Williams and Mavourneen Dineen

At the end of another year of painful austerity and mouting debts, Greece's battered economy is seeing over 1,000 workers lose their jobs every day.
On the surface, many cities still looks prosperous, but the nation's deep crisis is clearly reflected in the windows of hundreds of empty shops.
More than one million Greeks are unemployed, which is one-quarter of the workforce, and the country is facing a youth unemployment rate of 58 percent.
But while many are struggling to survive in this harsh financial climate, others are returning to the land from the towns and cities that onced promised so much.
Up until a month ago, Kostas Bozas was a city banker. Now he is unemployed and has moved to his father's house in a village outside Thessaloniki, going back to his roots in search of a future.
"I come a from a steady job, and now at the age of 50 it's the right opportunity to become a farmer ... my father will teach me the things he knows from his father."
Thousands have taken the road back to farming in recent years - while the rest of the economy is in free fall, the farming sector is actually adding jobs.
"The work is labour work, it was very difficult for me. I'm a girl, I was raised in Athens, I was having everything done for me. And now I have to dig. I feel like Scarlett O'Hara - the land is my strength, I think that when you have the land you can feed yourself, you can produce anything, you can be happy .... We can't expect anything from the government, they have proven so many years that they are useless, so we have to do it ourselves," says Alexandra Tricha, a former scientist.
Not everyone fleeing the cities is doing it willingly. Some are making a strategic retreat, taking refuge in family villages just to get by - hoping that one day they will return to urban careers.
Christos Kozakis always thought he would return to his mother's house one day, but when his business selling luxury cars in Athens collapsed, he and his wife felt they had no choice but to move back.
"You feel connected, you feel that you have roots here, that's one of the good things .... The only thing that makes me bitter is that somebody else decided that for me, I was forced to come here earlier .... Don't get me wrong, work is not a problem, I would wash cars, I don't care, just let me do it, just let me make a living to support my wife and my kid. It's breaking my heart .... This is my country, we are not thieves, we are not people who don't pay their taxes, and we are not lazy."
The steady shift to the farms and villages appears to be an unstoppable force fuelled by desperation in the cities, inspired by hope for a better, less anxious life. Some will flourish, others may fail. But all have taken a bold decision not to wait for the government or anyone else  - their futures are now in their own hands.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Something to cheer us up

On a day when the town was depressing:

Very Few in Town
It was raining
It was the last Market Day before Christmas

. . . . last night, I was reminded of the following group of people; - and I'm sure there are many in Ulverston like them - who took on a wonderful, crazy challenge.

It raises our spirits no end to be reminded of these kind of people who live in our midst.

People that refused to be cowered by adversity.

Let's all find a dream to live by.

As for us in Ulverston Town Square -

We shared a large box of chocolates and listened to the ever persistant clarinet that played briefly outside the Soup Dragon even though the 77 year old player was short on puff - "In the deep mid winter" seemed appropriate.

Jayne Kendall

Caution please.

I can understand that Jayne is the preferred choice that many Town Councillors would make as the next Town Clerk.

She is very strong willed and will push her policies through, as she has in the past.

The major problem will be that they will be Jayne's policies and not necessarily those of the town. She showed what can go wrong when she ran the town web site. She was presented by an excellent design by Furness Internet, the firm in Barrow who then had to watch in despair as the site was ruined. She pigheadedly refused all advice from several experts and made a total mess of the site so that it had to be eventually abandoned.

Jayne chooses to do a job her way. She is not a facilitator : someone who pulls the town's resources together and coordinates the efforts and skills that are available in the town. What people admire is her single mindedness, a quality much absent in most of our town councillors, hence her popularity with them but those outside this closed circle are ignored. Her protegee Peter Winston is similar, they work well together. Things certainly get done but both of them are very bad at involving others and readily get potential workers' backs up.

Decisions with these two are often made without consultation and the finances can be of dubious reliability - take the example of the Ulverston Better Towns Team (the organisation that runs  Flag Fortnight) which Jayne was chair of until recently.   Incidentally how much does Peter get paid for running the Dickensian Festival? Sadly we have an inner circle in the town who are not good at involving others.

The town is heading for difficult times. There will be no slack and we genuinely all need to pull together: people that will make the most of all the town's talents.

Beware: any councillor with views different to Jayne's will have a tough time.

Please make sure her contract has a tight statement in it that will assist with a smooth replacement when this becomes important.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The future of the CAB and other voluntary organisations

Having started by  becoming well informed by Roger Lindsay, a former volunteer who has prepared a well site on what is happening, I have now done a thorough survey of the question. I went to the AGM of the trustees last Thursday, I then talked in detail to Colin Henderson, a solicitor in Kendal who had a lot of experience from past involvement as a solicitor  for the trust. I then spoke to their chairman John Dersley at length on this last Tuesday morning when he explained his plans for the Ulverston CAB.

I conclude that if Ulverston is to be sure of its own bureau it must fund this itself by a supporters group: Ulverston taking care of its own - truly "in this together". No other source is guaranteed. John Dersley has hopes but has taken no action to secure funding of this nature direct but has many plans based on hopes based on operating under the umbrella of a separate organisation : Cumbria Rural.

A figure of £50,000 per year from 1,000 people from the surrounding area would seem to me to be thoroughly attainable and could well spark off long term support from other sources. What is needed is some positive leadership and not the continuous 'hope' that money will come from some form of local/national government. After all : the banking system is beginning to think in this way with small time investors lending directly to small business and cutting out the unreliable, large middle men banksers (gangsters) (Note: "Peer-to-peer lending boom could make banks obsolete" in the Independent  on Monday. So what's wrong with peer to peer support for local charities when we know exactly what is needed?

Thursday, 13 December 2012

At last I know for sure that our Citizens Advice Bureau will close.

At the AGM meeting tonight in Kendal, it was absolutley clear that the trustees of CASL  feel there is no way of keeping a face to face service open either in Kendal or Ulverston, as previously.

What is unclear is what will be done to continue this service one the present organisation is disbanded.

What is a disagrace is that we had to find out this way and so late in the day.

At least now things are out in the open. CASL the trust running both the Kendal and the Ulverston offices will be disbanded and the hope is that Cumbria Rural , an alternative trust will be able to take over.

Sadly we have responsible people refusing to be honest until now, not that they have done nothing - they have been chasing ideas which they hope could be made to work. Those of us looking for dependable solutions  are now left to pick up the pieces.

Now we know: we can take steps to find a solution for a face to face service ourselves and put behind us any thought of help from these CASL trustees who will be dealing with ifs and maybes but nothing reliable.

This indeed is very helpful as many alternative solutions now present themselves to those that are not defeatists. The same face to face service can be provided - but it will have to be done in a different way - and I suspect we will all have to pitch in, in some way if we are to be left with anything reliable rather than  looking to government - local or national.

The future is bleak, very bleak

Get used to it!

Most of the people who are here, live as though Ulverston was on another planet. They are extremely reluctant to believe they live on Earth and in particular Ulverston , Cumbria in the UK.

Even people who understand what is happening are reluctant to take in the reality of what is in the process of actually happening before their eyes.

When the Head of Google states that he's proud of his company's tax avoidance scheme because it's totally consistent with Capitalism, we realise what kind of monsters our western society has created.
We have human beings that will tear the clothes of freezing people and snatch food out of the mouths of starving people without a second thought because their prime allegiance is to the shareholders. They do not have allegiances to human beings in general.  We have people who have lost their humanity and there are many if not most of the people around that have lost theirs.

The sad thing is that nearly all of us have a misconception of what it is to have 'humanity'.

Humans are in fact primarily selfish and that means all of us. We all need to learn this lesson fast as the world round the corner isn't the cosy place we imagine it to be.

"Get a grip" is a useful expression and one we all need to put into practise if we are to enjoy - yes enjoy - the rest of our lives here in Ulverston or even the world that is full of humans.

Here's an uncomfortable report that tells us 'like it is'.

Dwindling resources 'threaten global chaos'

When you've read, understood and digested what it's telling us, then let's talk and find out how we can still enjoy living in this very selfish world. . . .   I can - which is why I'm learning and playing my clarinet!

And I don't see it as living with my head in the sand. . . .

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Enjoying life

An interview with an 108 year old who still plays the piano for 3 hours a day in her flat in London and survived the Concentration Camps and Cancer.

Someone who has spent her life laughing.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Gill Community 'steals' the SLDC salt-grit

Here we have documented evidence of the criminals who steal the SLDC supplies that are meant solely for the use of the Car Parks

Yes we, the Gill community, are the grit thieves. Come and get us - we await the knock of the police at our front doors.

Thank God we have a couple of councillors who refuse to accept SLDC rubbish, even though it's delivered by the lorry load.
Well done Councillors Jane Harris and Paul Smith who politely but firmly put the local district council in their place - see the Evening Mail article

So the question remains:
If the communities in central Ulverston are not meant to 'steal' the car park grit for doing the pavements that don't get salted by the county,
Where are they meant to get thier supplies  ?
Will it take the County and the District the next five years to squabble over who will do the job?

We are stil waiting for a similar squabble to be resolved:
Who is responsible for putting up a sign in the area of the Market Square for the Stockbridge Lane Car Park ?
Four years ago, after a lengthy three week 'consultation' with CCC those attending put the above as their top priority for improving the road network in Ulverston Town. Yet this sign notifying road users that there was a (an empty) Car Park at Stockbridge Lane needs to be paid for by the county, but it is a sign to a District Car Park - so ( they say) is none of their responsibility. Squabble, squabble, squabble. The County Councillors at the time - Wendy Kolbe and Pauline Halfpenny - at the end of the consultation meetings, in order to bring a noisy and unhappy public meeting to an end repeated over and over again - "Leave it to us, leave it to us". We are still waiting - the specific councillors long gone. The issue remains.

Do we have a Town Councillor with the tenacity and determination to bang a few heads together and knock a bit of common sense into the officers concerned?

Meanwhile the public suffers, venting their frustration in the repeated jibes made at the total shambles we often have for what is affectionately called 'democracy'.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

The John O Gaunt, Lancaster

"Always start at the top"

Has been my motto throughout my life - and it's worked time and time again.

As far as I know, this is the top venue in the area for music. So for my first gig, I started here.

I had a great time playing at this friendly pub in Lancaster.  Saturday evening. This is my first time playing in a pub. I had a great reception - everyone was very warm and complimentary as I played my clarinet, flat out, on my own, with full undivided attention, eyes close, for half an hour, improvising freely on my favourite mp3s using the Roland 'cube' I've just bought. Yes - "I will survive" was one of the first to be played, "Yesterday" followed soon after, and with "Dr Jazz" I let fly with every ounce of energy I had - absolutely full blast, no holding back, whatever note I played was the 'right' one!

I played well despite  my clarinet having a fault : one of the notes wouldn't play. I quickly learnt to skirt round this so that it was less of a problem; there was enough noise in the pub to persuade the listeners that they had missed a note - not me.

Now I've dipped my toe in and had a good experience - I'm ready for more! Confidence running high.

Very tired - but immensely happy!

How did I get in? Well I had played their old piano and made it sing to 'wild aclaim' from the regulars for ten minutes at a previous visit.

I believe it is always worth at least asking for what you want. Amazingly a high proportion of the time you get it.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

It's a beautiful day

And I've got a morning out with a fantastic young woman ! 

Monday, 3 December 2012

My first audition

I'm "pushing the boat out".

Market Cross , this Thursday between 10 and 1 am

When I'll be listened to by the team from the Hope and Anchor to see how, what and how I play fits in with the music they have on at their pubwhat they do.

Any support and encouragement gratefully accepted !

The many faces of Cameron

What happened to that nice David Cameron? 

asks The Independent journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

"There must be a name for this disturbing syndrome, the absence of a core, of authenticity"

Salting our roads and pavements

The County Council Highways Department are doing an amazingly good job. Well done.

All the signs are there that we have an incredibly good service here in Ulverston. All the main and even minor roads in town have been dusted with salt grit. The pavements in town are also treated. All the Green bins are stocked up full with salt ready for the community to to join in maintaining our roads and pavements to a high standard.

May I remind residents that the salt provided is NOT there for use on people's drives or private land. Should we get snow won't it be great to see the public working together to clear their own sections of pavement so that we can walk all over our town safely.

We all know that time to clear the snow is immediately after the snow has fallen and before anyone has trodden on it. Acting straight away is by far the most affective way. Making sure that we have the best tools ready to go will be important. I'll be out filming the areas that demonstrate a great cooperation so that we can see our work on Youtube. As in previous years I suspect that we'll all be out there clearing the snow within hours of the snow landing in our part of town. It's a great time to renew that community spirit of people working together to solve a problem.

The County Highways Team have shown us how to work well: I'm looking forward to seeing the public act equally responsibly so that we all feel good about our town. This spirit will I believe provide a great lift to those that are feeling at all depressed by the problems they face with hardships hitting them from all directions.

Here's a very practical way that we can all work together.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

You may wish to book this date

I shall be playing my clarinet with all the passion that I can summon up in what is for me an alien environment - a pub. The Old Friends,  Sunday afternoon 16th December. This could well be my first encounter with the public in a pub. Can I perform there with the same freedom and intensity that I am able to deliver here in my own living room?

I believe , based on my experience of playing 'on my own' in the Market Square for six or seven weeks now, I am ready for this challenge. Looking back I have received many compliments, I have been clapped by critical friends telling me that I hit my notes with 'perfection' - "That was amazing  - you got that just right". I have been given money by strangers because they enjoyed my music, I have watched, as I played, total strangers begin to dance without realising it to the music I was performing - probably because I too was dancing as I played and was transmitting those vibes. Music is the language of the emotions - one never knows what can happen when we are touched by the deep emotions of another person who is pouring out all the passion and enjoyment from inside his being via the skill with a musical instrument. I have seen it done hundreds of times by skilled performers : now it's my turn.

I'm fortunate that I'm going in with the experience that I know that I can do it. It will be even more poignant if I find others travel specially to hear me on this occasion.

I shall only be playing music that excites me strongly - so you'll learn a little about me. At the same time, I'll be learning about you as to whether my "performance turns you on". I've learnt that I can perceive and read the body language of those listening and see whether I'm communicating effectively with you to cause you the enjoyment that I'm feeling. Note I shall expect you to listen - or else I could stop.

If you're there you'll be at my first gig of many hundreds that will follow in the years to come. I intend to be very good in five years time as I'm aware that I'm 'on a roll' because I know I'm clearly better this week than the last. This encourages me to practise like crazy and thus reap the benefits of being an excellent musician.

My strengths are in improvising, playing my ear - playing whatever enters my head at the time. Being able to think, on the spur of the moment, a series of notes and way of playing them and just emit them without thinking - as you can imagine it's very exciting when you know you have produced something special. Come and judge for yourself. If you can't sit and really listen , then stay away. A performer can play some nasty tricks on those that show disinterest unjustifiably.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

A sad, sad, sad day at our market today

It was a beautiful day; many people were in the town and there were . . . . . three market stalls at the market. David Gardner's being the main stay.

Once again our town councillors have just stood by and watched it happen.

No that's not true you say. Cllr Judy Pickthall has tried hard.

No, you say, it's not their fault - it's the economic situation - people aren't buying.

No, you say our car park charges are frightening our visitors away.

Well compare Ulverston (no web site) with Settle, go talk and learn from David Gardner who is here faithfully twice a week. He sells plants at both markets. (look who's at the bottom).

He will explain why Settle has a successful market and why Ulverston doesn't.

Have come our councillors  made an effort to go across and find out the various secrets of their success and strive hard to put their secrets into practice here. I think not.

Well first of all they have their own web site - totally dedicated to bringing in visitors into their Tuesday Market. You'll agree for a market web site they do a brilliant job.

This shows that they have:

 5 Food stalls some of which used to come here.

6 Clothes and Fashion stalls

7 General Retail Stalls

Some how making up 27 stalls , they reckon

Most of the stall holders give details of what kinds of things they sell

There are 20 photos of the stalls even one of David's stall with him in 'action'

So why the big difference in the effort put into attracting vistors to their market.

First David tells me the people in Settle are a bolshie lot who stick up for themselves and insist on running thier own market - hence the web site. They don't let the District Councill anywhere near it.

Second David tells me the councillors there make a big fuss of the stall holders and are regularly asking if there's anything they can do to help. Again something I'm told that is very absent here by comparison. Many tell me they have rarely seen a councillor and wouldn't have a clue what they look like.

Aren't there some lessons to learn or are we all going to lie down on our backs, dog like, with our paws in the air , wimpering  " Please be nice to me, I'm only a poor little dog and will let you walk all over me is that's what you want."

I suspect you can guess by response to that. . . .  Grr Grr snap snap 

That's why I've taken up the clarinet to do my bit and add a bit of interest to the square on market days whatever the weather rain or shine snow or swelter. That's why I come with others and play chess there every week. That's why I paid up my trader's Licence (£77) and at least tried . . . and ran a pottery making stall. I used to run a thriving 'health food' stall until I transferred it into the Oxfam Building in 1986 when I ran that community venture.

Come on you lot, ball your heads off and go storming into the council chamber and bang a few dustbin lids until you're heard. Or better still at the next election bring in some independent guys  who mean business and not a lot of card holding party politicians. In the North of England, Ulverston is one of the few places where party politicians survive.

Morcambe by contrast has very few. Other towns like Hawaorth near Bradford, which I contacted because they had brilliant work done on their cobbles by contactors (Balfour Beatie for United Utilities ). At Haworth, John Huxley, who is chair of the Parish Council, tells me they have 90 % Independents with party politicians a rarity.